Printing processes are as varied as the items they print on. To help you choose the right process for your design we have compiled a basic guide outlining the different methods, and their main uses and benefits.
Of all the numerous types of printing available, there are four primary printing processes that dominate the market, with some close to having a monopoly of the type of product they specialise in:
Utilising a lithoplate printing cylinder for each colour, offset printing is used for larger volumes of work. It can create prints at such a speed that the more efficient machines have to utilise an oven at the end of the production line to dry the ink. It is losing out to other process in some areas though.
Benefits: Large volumes
Primary Use: Publications
Seconary Use: Promotional Material, Packaging
Flexo uses an inscribed rubber printing surface that can apply ink directly to the substrate instead of using an intermediary surface to transfer ink, as in offset printing. It is used for even longer runs than offset and is more versatile in its applications. The vast majority of its work is in packaging.
Benefits: Very large volumes, versatility
Primary Use: Packaging
Secondary Use: Products
Very much the new kid on the block, digital printing has revolutionised the industry. It requires little to no set up which reduces costs and increases production speed in smaller volumes. It can also print on most substrates up to very large sizes - making it extremely versatile. Digital printing produces the bulk of all promotional materials, and is increasingly making gains in other areas.
Benefits: Speed, versatility, cheap, size
Primary Use: Promotional Material
Secondary Use: Publications
Used for the very highest volume tasks, it is increasingly finding itself losing out to other process because of its higher start-up cost and longer set up times. Using an engraved cylinder to transfer ink directly to paper at speed, it has traditionally been the process of choice for newspapers and magazines, but also in packaging.
Benefits: Extremely large volumes
Primary Use: Publications, packaging
Secondary Use: Products
There are numerous types of specialist printing that have either faded out of use because of the increased versatility of the main process, or have a specific role that can’t be duplicated by other means and so have retained their niche.
Screen Printing: The process of pressing ink through a patterned screen is used almost exclusively on products. It is traditionally associated with clothing, but can also be used on most materials such as glass, wood, paper, metal and plastic.
Letter Press: Having previously been phased out by other techniques, it has now found its niche in crafting more bespoke products like wedding invitations and business cards.
Flocking: Involves the process of fixing a velvet-like fur to a product, this process has a very specific role.
Pad Printing: The cushioned pad that applies the ink moulds to the surface its printing on and so is very good for printing on shapes and unconventional products.
Intaglio: Similar to gravure printing and once upon a time was in wide spread use. This process of etching designs into plates is now used almost exclusively for official state printing like currency, passports and high value stamps.
Thermography: Another method of providing a more bespoke finish, it involves pressing paper or card to create raised lettering. Used in the letter heads, invitations, and business cards.
From these options you should have no problem finding the right solution for your design. At Evans Graphics we specialise in Digital Printing - as it offers the most varied and versatile solutions without compromising on the quality of finish - and Screen Printing, being one the few printers still able to offer this process.